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Rules for rhyme pattern and meter?

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First off let me explain that I am a verse virgin. : )  I have written several magazine stories and one pb (only one publishing credit).  I have never tried verse before.  Right now I'm toying with a draft of a pb ms for very young children, sort of a bedtime book. I have read a lot about verse on these boards as well as a few other online sources. But I've got a few questions I haven't found answers to.

1) Must the meter be consistent for each stanza or are there times when it is appropriate/ok for different stanzas to have different meter?

2) Most of the verse examples I've come across have been aabb or abab or abcb type of rhyme schemes.  My stanzas have three lines and go like this: abb, cdd, eff, etc.  Is this ok?

3) As I understand it, it's not so much the number of syllables in my lines as the beats or rhythm of stressed syllables.  Am I right?

Thanks for your advice!

#1 - April 27, 2007, 05:01 PM


I prefer consistent meter/syllables/beats.  I'm not one for poetry, so for me, these are all the same thing.  As for your rhyme being abb, I would have no problem with that.
#2 - April 29, 2007, 09:02 PM


If you're interested in writing in verse, do yourself a favor and read a lot of picture books in verse before you try it.  I mean a lot.  At least 100, maybe more.

By then, you will develop an ear for what's "good" and what's "bad," what sorts you like and which you don't.  Because truly, there are no hard and fast rules, particularly if you're doing picture books.  Free verse can work, so can rhyme.  Rhyme can vary and skew, or be extremely consistent throughout. 

And when writing in verse, remember that the story must always come first -- it has to make sense, and inserting stuff in just to make it rhyme is a bad idea.  (Reading a lot of rhymed books will help you see that more easily, because you're guaranteed to find a few stinkers along the way.)
#3 - April 30, 2007, 09:36 AM


Thanks.  Yeah, I'm just sort of playing around right now and it's hard to know what's "right."  Some of my favorites are The Seven Silly Eaters (god bless poor Mrs. Peter!) and I'm a big fan (as is my 3 year old son) of the series by Tony Mitton including Tough Trucks, Busy Boats, Dazzling Diggers, etc.  The problem I have as a writer (that is, aspiring-to-be-published writer!) is that there are sooooo many examples of books that break the rules.  And not just classics or authors with big name recognition.  It's very depressing to be "doing all my homework," reading all the children's books I can get my hands on, and to come across so many "stinkers" out there.  Obviously there are thousands of excellent books out there that are very inspiring (I just read Lauren Child's I am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed to my daughter before her nap. Child's Charlie and Lola books are brilliant, I think), but then there are those others where I think, You're kidding??  Out of presumably thousands of manuscripts, they pick THIS one????

Ok, that turned into a little vent. Sorry. : )

Thanks for your responses,

#4 - April 30, 2007, 10:49 AM


Hi Stephanie.

To answer your questions:

1. Never say never, but I would say usually, yes, the meter should be consistent from one stanza to the next. The only exception I can think of offhand would be when there's a refrain, but then the refrain would remain consistent each time it's used, and the non-refrain stanzas would still need to be consistent.

2. It's hard to answer this without seeing it.

3. Yes. It's the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Good luck! Writing in rhyme can be very difficult and frustrating, but also incredibly rewarding (when you get it right).
#5 - April 30, 2007, 07:05 PM

Ogden Nash was a genius at verse, including intentionally breaking meter for effect and using odd rhyme for a good laughter.  See "Custard the Dragon."
#6 - April 30, 2007, 09:34 PM
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins


You'll find a lot of good stuff here:

Pat in UK
#7 - May 01, 2007, 01:53 AM



                    I have a friend, (active on this board) who is a MASTER RHYMER. I have been trying to convince her to become

        a professional rhyme crittor. ( i made up the spelling of that word). Anyway, I don't know if suggesting this on this board is

       a no-no or not.  She is marvelous and there are others here, too, who would concur.

       If I can convince her to come out of the shadows, ( I'm getting close because I hound her daily ) and let people know that she is available for

       meter/rhyme critique for that something that is allowed to post here?

               Curious as always,

#8 - May 01, 2007, 04:17 AM


Thanks, Pat.  I just checked out Dori Chaconas' website. It's great, very informative and I like her grid. I'll definitely give her method a try.

#9 - May 01, 2007, 05:21 PM


I encourage you to read all of the the PB's of rhyme by Jack Prelutsky....he is considered the MASTER of the Art of Rhyme..check out his rhyme schemes and style [you can search for all his books] :faint:...this will help you figure out what editors want...

PS- I will warn you that there is an industry bias against rhyming PB's - many or most of the editors that you send your PB mss to will reject them out of hand without even reading them.......You might want to try plain prose first, then if you are lucky enough to get an Literary agent, then you might find some sucess IF your rhyme scheme is perfect!

Good Luck.

#10 - May 10, 2007, 09:49 AM


Well, I'm not anywhere near to the point where I'd submit my verse. I'm more at the learning/practice-practice-practice stage. : )  I am much more comfortable with prose certainly, and that's what I'm subbing.  But when I need a change of pace, a little verse exercise is kind of fun.

#11 - May 13, 2007, 05:33 PM


Pat -- I really enjoyed reading the Dori Chaconas piece. Thanks for sharing it.

#12 - May 13, 2007, 06:19 PM


I don't think it's all that dire with editors.  But yes, they generally say "no," because so many people write rhyme...and they just don't have it down yet.

I do think pb's are read, it just doesn't take very long, once you get to it in the huge stack. And weak rhyme and meter are noticeable immediately. Those probably aren't read beyond the first stanza or two.
#13 - May 13, 2007, 07:35 PM

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Nodding to Pickles, yes, good rhyme and a good story will get noticed.
#14 - May 17, 2007, 11:09 AM
+ GOD BLESSES ME (March 2020)


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